One day about ten years ago, when I lived on Coronado Island in San Diego, I was driving around town…running errands and taking care of the daily business of living, and, like I always do whilst in the car, I was listening to public radio. As I was sitting there in traffic, annoyed and rushed, an interview with a player for the San Diego Chargers came on. Sports, I thought. UGH.
However, as I listened, I realized that this young man — whose now unfortunately forgotten name I have attempted to find dozens of times since then, but to no avail — was talking about a program that he had started to help feed hungry kids. As I listened, I realized that instead of spending all of his newfound money on fast cars and hot women, like SO many of his teammates were doing…he was using it to fund a local food bank that he had established.
In the most humble, beautiful, and generous way, this young man explained that he himself had grown up very poor — and, consequently knew what it felt like as a child to go to both school and bed…hungry.
And, then he said something that I never forgot. He said, “I know I can’t change the whole world — that I can’t save the whole world. But, having known the burn and humiliation of hunger as a child…I know that just a single sandwich or a single banana can mean EVERYTHING to a hungry kid…to both their body AND their soul. I certainly know what it meant to ME. And, so, that’s what I am doing — feeding their body and their soul…a single sandwich or a single banana at a time.”
His humble, beautiful, generous words have never left me.
His humble, beautiful, generous words CHANGED ME.
And, trust me…I know that it is all so overwhelming. I know that it’s easier to just throw up your hands and say, “It’s ALL too much. What difference can I make?”
But, I would like to suggest to you what helped me overcome my own overwhelm when faced with what seems to be an insurmountable problem of where to even BEGIN. It really is very simple. This is where I started:
Be who and what YOU needed when you were younger.
Each one of us has the power to make a profound difference in the world — in whatever way is important or meaningful to us — a single sandwich, a single banana, or even…a single starfish at a time.
“A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore.
Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea.
“It made a difference to that one.”’